A5N regional tournaments kick off in Guam

(IRB.COM) Saturday 28 June 2008

 A5N regional tournaments kick off in Guam

The Guam Regional Tournament will be played under a single round robin format with the first match between Guam and Brunei kicking off on Sunday, 29 June, at Wettengel Field, Dededo, Guam. 
Brunei will then meet the Philippines on Wednesday, 2 June, with the final encounter between Guam and the Philippines to be played on Saturday, 5 July, 2008.  All kick-off times are 4.00pm local time.

The Philippine national side or The Volcanoes as they are known, enter the Tournament as the top contenders, having beaten Guam on both occasions the two teams have met, including an 18 – 14 win in 2006 and a 39 – 3 victory last June in Manila. 

For the HSBC Asian Five Nations Regional Tournament, the Philippine Rugby Football Union has secured the presence of several of its overseas-based Filipino players in a bid to capture a newly created trophy, the Magellan Cup, which will be contested between Guam and the Philippines.  The legendary Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan first made landfall in the Pacific on his circumnavigation of the globe on Guam and met his untimely, although not entirely unwarranted, demise in Cebu in the Philippines. 

Brunei enters the HSBC Asian Five Nations Regional Tournament as the least experienced side, having never played Guam or the Philippines before.   But the boys from Brunei will be looking to cause some upsets with a very young side as 20 of the 24-man squad are under 25 years old.
Brunei’s last experience of test match rugby was in the Asian Rugby Football Union’s 2007 Asian Nations Series where they lost to Indonesia 32 – 17.  In preparation for the HSBC Asian Five Nations Regional Tournament, Brunei has played three warm-up matches, beating the Brunei Armed Forces 64 – 24 and the Domestic League champions the Bandar Blacks 55 – 0, but losing to the Flying Kukris, a team made up of ex-British servicemen, 15 – 5.

While rugby has long been a popular past time on the Micronesian island of Guam, a formalized competitive league structure was only established in 1997.  A year later, the Guam Rugby Football Union was founded with the GRFU celebrating its 10th anniversary by hosting the HSBC Asian Five Nations Regional Tournament.

Rugby has been played in Brunei since the 1950s, but the Brunei Rugby Football Union has only been officially registered as a society since November 2004.  The influx of British servicemen and other expats helped local rugby flourish in the 1960s and 1970s, when Brunei was regularly represented at regional sevens tournaments like the world-famous Hong Kong Sevens. Since joining the Asian Rugby Union in 2004, the Brunei Rugby Team has taken part in a number of international competitions.

Although presently recording a rather unfavourable Win-Loss ratio in the international rugby scene, Brunei rugby is continually improving and focusing its efforts on the development of youth players.  Currently the Brunei Rugby Football Union manages a domestic competition consisting of six first grade teams.  In 2008 the number of local players taking up the game exceeded expatriates for the first time.  The numbers of active playing rugby players in Brunei is estimated to be about 850 across both seniors and juniors.

The Philippines Rugby Football Union was founded in 1999 but has seen its most encouraging growth in recent years.  PRFU now maintains a six-club set-up with Manila Nomads, Alabang Eagles, Makati Chiefs, Philippine Warriors/MAAP, Philippine Air Force and Cebu City RFC. 

In addition, the Philippine Military Academy has recently added rugby to their curriculum, which should further hasten the development of the game.  The PRFU is a full member of the International Rugby Board and the Asian Rugby Football Union and was recently named a recognized Sports Federation of the International Olympic Council of Asia.  Over half the players now participating in the domestic league are Filipino.